Preventing caregiver burnout

Another way that caregivers and other family members are affected by PTSD is out of empathy or compassion.

It is upsetting for a person to see their family member go through the difficulties brought on by trauma, depression, anxiety, PTSD or another illness or condition.

Trauma changes how a person sees the world, some people become withdrawn from their family after trauma, and trauma can make a person hard to get along with, especially when the symptoms last for a long time and are severe.

Under some circumstances, caregivers can also develop compassion fatigue. A stressed state brought on by dealing with the constant distress of another person.

I noticed that after I had a difficult night terror, the next day my current husband had dark circles under his eyes, he was jittery, and his eyes seemed to be opened wide like a person who is experiencing shock.

When I asked him how he felt he said that he felt nervous and on edge.

Throughout our relationship, I saw how my struggles with PTSD has affected my partner and now we work at protecting his health.

Sometimes it's not about you! It's about your caregiver's needs

I ensure that I do my part by not making a practice of complaining about my symptoms, and other things—unless I am so sick, frustrated, or in pain that I cannot function—otherwise I keep it to myself.

This gives my caregiver a break from worrying about me. When I am feeling well I do more, sometimes taking on the majority of the household responsibilities to help around the house.

When I am feeling unwell I at least do something to care for myself, and something to contribute to managing the house every day.

I encourage my caregiver to go to the gym, and we take care of our overall health.

Lastly, we communicate from a position of love and respect. I do not allow myself to mistreat my loved ones and then say, “I’m sorry, but you know I have PTSD and can’t help it!” Real apologies are quick on the heels of unkind behavior in our house.

When you shutdown it's hard on the relationship

I know, sometimes you just do not feel like talking, caring about your appearance, or even going out, but I fake it ‘till I make.

Sometimes that means plastering a fake smile on my glossed lips, wearing a pretty outfit when I would rather be in bed in my sweat-suit screaming—just stop talking to me!

I also get dressed up and go out with my husband even though I do not want to.

He understands that I might have to disappear to the quiet solitude of our car every once in a while, because things that my very social mate enjoys doing, like parties and trips to the flea market are all very stressful for someone with PTSD—like me.

But, I do it anyway and it usually is not as bad as I thought it would be. I manage to enjoy myself a little, and even when I am not enjoying myself, I make him think that I am.

Is this dishonest? Maybe, but the other way—full disclosure about all of the things that freak me out and make me want to stay at home, would be overwhelming to him. It would also limit the full expression of things that he finds enjoyable.

I don't want to walk around the mall for two-hours and he really does not want to go camping, but we do it because it makes the other person happy.

And here is the crazy thing. By faking enjoyment in social activities, after a while they were not so PTSD triggering, and I really did start to enjoy them.

My experience with trauma is unique to me. Not everyone will be triggered in the same way or react as I have in similar situations, but my hope is that it will help people to understand what it is like to have a mood disorder, how my trauma occurred, and what efforts I have taken, along with my healthcare team, family, and a small group of friends to save my life and to create my new normal.

I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story.

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